A workshop convened by the Rural Development and Innovation Hub (RDIH) at the University of Limpopo (UL), has convened small-scale farmers and researchers to collaborate on practices of using waste as energy.
The one-day workshop was the first phase of the RDIH study on “Waste-to-energy practices on small-scale farms” in which farmers and researchers were to develop the study’s questionnaire. The workshop followed a call for research, development and innovation in the field of solid waste management by the Department of Science and Innovation.
The RDIH responded successfully with a research proposal that placed focus on waste-to-energy practices amongst small-scale farmers.A research grant of over R500 000 for two years was secured for the study, which is expected to fully or partially fund at least an honours or a master’s student.
The Director at RDIH Alida van Dyk said the workshop was crucial because the Hub believed that research was not limited to only scientists but was an ongoing process, part of life-long learning. She added that the study was carried out by farmers who wanted to improve their farming practices.
“The farmers are not just participants but are actively a part of the research team, making decisions about how the study will be implemented,” she explained.
The rest of the research team comprises Prof Johannes Maree (from the Department of Water and Sanitation at UL) and two Environmental Strategy and Waste Management Specialists – Leon Bredenhann (from IQS Holdings) and Hannes Joubert (from VitaOne8).
During the workshop, Bredenhann introduced the notion of waste, the integrated waste management hierarchy and what could be regarded as waste-to-energy practices on a farm.
Joubert and Cuzette du Plessis (Research, Innovation and Community Liaison Officer at RDIH) then developed a questionnaire with the farmers to determine the kind of waste generated on the farms and the state of available waste-to-energy practices on the farms.
A farmer from Ga-Mothapo, Mokgalakgathe Tladi appreciated that the workshop was an eye-opener because it helped him and other farmers learn that waste-to-energy study would help farmers to cut down on energy costs by converting animal waste into manure and food waste into biogas – a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly energy source.
Mmatlou Mabibela, a swine farmer from Mankweng, concurred that reusing and recycling waste was crucial.
“Waste management is vital because it provides farmers with benefits to their soil and livestock and helps to keep the environment clean,” she added.
Speaking to the farmers, du Plessis said: “There is a need to create new knowledge that benefits farmers with farming practices through the ongoing study. We need a team of people with different farming talents and skills to work together.”
By Doctor Sundani